When I started TBH beekeeping nearly 3 years ago the person who provided my first bees said that I would want more than 1 colony. You know, she was right. Not because of any desire to run a large apiary but because bee colonies can be very fragile things.
My philosophy on beekeeping is 'minimal interference'. I want strong colonies to provide strong genes to support rebuilding their gene line in an effort to overcome the damage that has and is being done to the species by humans.
This last year I lost 2 of my 3 hives. I had split my strongest colony early in May and it had spent the summer building back rapidly and was looking really healthy. In late August it swarmed whilst I was on holiday. The remaining cluster was too small to defend its winter stores from wasps and was robbed out.
My weakest colony died of starvation at the end of February. Another 3 weeks and it would have survived with the early pollen in March. As it was at a pollination site it is observed by others who were away at the time. But would I have intervened? Based on my philosophy, no. But ethically? What would have been better for the bees as a species? Intervening in what might have been a weaker colony or letting it die off so that it's genes did not contribute to this year's swarming. It's a question we all have to ask ourselves at some point in our hobby.
So by the end of this year's swarming season I hope to be running 3 colonies again as a minimum, possibly 4 if I can find time to build another hive. Yes you can have too much of a good thing but, as I found out over this last season, you can also have too little. Without options, one hive is never enough.